What is up with politicians misrepresenting the First Amendment this week? First Newt Gingrich, arguing against the Ground Zero Mosque, claimed Nazis "don't have the right" to put a sign next to the Holocaust museum. Then Sarah Palin tweeted that N-word-spewing Dr. Laura’s “1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence.” Sorry, but neither of you understand the First Amendment, say two columnists:
- Nazis do, in fact, have the right to put up that hypothetical sign, because “the government can’t silence a speaker based on the content of his message without a really, really good reason,” writes Brian Palmer on Slate. Yes, the government can make “reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of speech,” but not the viewpoint.
- As for Palin, well, “a person's rights to freedom of speech are not violated by vigorous criticism or public condemnation,” Max Read points out in a snarky Gawker post. But Palin seems to believe that “the First Amendment endows every American with the right to host a radio show, and to use the N-word without ever being criticized.”
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